Will '12 Years a Slave' or 'American Hustle' Get Shut Out at the Oscars?
by Joey Magidson
February 24, 2014
There's a theory of mine that's been in my head for a couple weeks now, and it's not going to be a popular one, but I also hope it doesn't come true. As much as many of my colleagues are looking to a potential shutout for American Hustle (though Jennifer Lawrence is looking pretty good for Best Supporting Actress), I think that 12 Years a Slave could be just as likely for that fate. Now, I'm not saying it should or that it will happen, but there's just as much of a chance for a 12 Years a Slave shutout as for American Hustle, so it's worth considering. Either one could join Captain Philiips, Nebraska, Philomena, and/or The Wolf of Wall Street as the Best Picture nominees that wind up going home empty-handed.
It's an unusual situation to be sure, considering both 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle could also win Best Picture. Of course, the former has a better chance to win than the latter these days, but as we move to the other categories, none are a lock. In fact, once we get outside of the big eight categories, the technical fields could yield shutouts for both. They're competing in a number of the same categories too, with only Best Actress as a category (aside from the split Screenplay nods) where they're both not cited (regardless, Amy Adams is likely losing to Cate Blanchett anyway). This sets up a battle that I'm not sure many people are thinking about. One of these flicks is likely to get shut out by the Academy, and it may very well be an overt choice between the two.
With Best Picture, they both obviously have Gravity standing in their way, and the same goes for Best Director as well. With Gravity/Alfonso Cuarón in position to take these two awards, it could mean a very lean night for both of these other heavy hitters. Simply put, a movie that wins Best Picture usually wins at least a few other Oscars, but if you lose there, nothing is there to stop you from losing elsewhere. If you remove these two contenders from those two categories, you can start to see the squeeze beginning.
In Best Actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor is still in play, though Christian Bale should just be happy to be nominated. Both are likely to lose to frontrunner Matthew McConaughey though, so you can't really look for anything there for either. They both have Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress nominations as well, with the former category likely being a sure loss for both Bradley Cooper and Michael Fassbender. The latter though is where one of these two works will avoid the shutout. Will the aforementioned Lawrence save Hustle or will Lupita Nyong'o do the trick for 12 Years? This category is clearly the one to keep an eye on.
When it comes to their screenplay battles, both are potential winners but also poised to be upset as well. With American Hustle, it's gone from a Best Original Screenplay lock to likely being overtaken by Her. As for 12 Years a Slave, it's still the frontrunner, but both Captain Phillips and Philomena are both closing in. I'd be much more surprised if Hustle won its screenplay prize than if 12 Years did, but if both lost I wouldn't be stunned either. Both winning would come close to though, but I don't see that happening.
As for the technical categories, the safe money has both films being shut out, though one could make the case that 12 Years a Slave has a decent chance at winning Best Production Design and American Hustle is well placed to win Best Costume Design, but The Great Gatsby looms large in both. Neither can rely on tech wins in any way, and that's also why I don't see them taking Best Picture. If one of them comes up with a surprise Best Film Editing win though, all bets are off. I don't see them beating Captain Phillips or Gravity there though.
So which category (besides Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress) are each film's Waterloo, as it were? It's the screenplay races. If they break a certain way, it could come down to Supporting Actress to see which movie goes home without a prize. That category likely will be early on in the Oscar telecast, so one of these flicks will be able to exhale pretty quickly. It won't quite be a situation where Best Picture determines their fates, but one or two upsets could make things very tense for 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle. Like I said at the start, most see Hustle being the more likely one to get shut out, but I'm thinking that it could be just as likely a fate for 12 Years, if not more likely. We'll find out in just six more days, so stay tuned!